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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Dr. Abraham Loeb
Harvard College Observatory


Matias Zaldarriaga, Harvard College Observatory

Project Title

Utilizing the Mileura Wide-Field Array to Search for Intelligent Extra-Terrestrial Life

Project Summary

The question of whether intelligent life exists elsewhere is one of the most fundamental unknowns about our Universe. If conclusive evidence for life elsewhere is found, it could revolutionize the way we view our place in the cosmos. Over the past decade numerous extra-solar planets have been discovered, providing new urgency for addressing this question. Coincidentally, new radio observatories are currently being constructed to detect low-frequency emission from cosmic hydrogen in the infant Universe. The frequency range of these experiments happens to overlap with the range of frequencies used for radar, TV and radio broadcasting on Earth. We propose to examine the prospects for detecting similar radio signals from extra-solar planets that would indicate the presence of intelligent life there. The PI and Co-I are members of one of the funded low-frequency experiments, namely the Mileura Wide-Field Array (MWA) in western Australia, which is expected to start observations in a few years. Our study would help design the observing strategy and data recording/analysis that would optimize the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life. We will also explore the likely characteristics of the anticipated signal and ways of disentangling it from other astronomical emissions.

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